Remembering: Lily Pond Lane

It was reported recently that Martha has sold her iconic home on Lily Pond Lane in East Hampton, New York. I know that many of Martha's readers and viewers consider that home to be a beautiful reflection of her design aesthetic. Second only to Turkey Hill, perhaps, it is the home Martha's fans considered to be most familiar in terms of its style vernacular - particularly throughout the 1990s and early 2000s. It goes without saying, then, that we will miss seeing it in the pages of Martha's books and magazines going forward. The home was reportedly sold to former Huffington Post publisher Kenneth Lerer. 

I thought it would be fun to do a post about the house and the role it played in Martha's work. From a line of paints to a complete furniture collection based on the home's atmosphere and aesthetic, Lily Pond was enormously influential in the creation of many of Martha's products. It was an oft-used site for her magazine photoshoots, both indoors and outdoors, and was also frequently used as a set for her television show: season five of Martha Stewart Living features an extensive number of episodes filmed at this address, particularly cooking and gardening segments. Below is a brief history of the house, how it came into Martha's possession, how it influenced her business and a brief synopsis of some of its iconic style signatures. I hope you enjoy it!

Built in 1873, the house once belonged to one of East Hampton's most memorable preachers, Reverand Talmage. It stands on the site that used to be called "Divinity Hill" for the many ministers from New York and Brooklyn who stayed at its boarding houses. Some still call Lily Pond the DeWitt Talmage House, named after the longtime summer resident who commissioned extensive renovations to the home in 1893.

Martha first fell in love with the Hamptons in the early '60s when she would vacation there with her husband. One of her favourite streets in the area, even then, was Lily Pond Lane, known for its stately width and the rows of majestic beech trees that line the street, as well as towering London plane trees and elms. In one of her "Remembering" columns, Martha describes her initial attraction to the street she would one day call home:

"I was attracted to its quiet, serene appearance, and though most of the houses were tucked behind privet barriers, some of the gardens were fully exposed. The most wonderful one was on the pond itself. It was breathtaking. I stood and gazed at the profuse and colourful flowers, making mental notes of the types that were blooming so perfectly - dahlias, salvias, asters, daisies and roses."

Thirty years later, Martha would have her own home on this lovely street. It was apparently Martha's daughter, Alexis, who encouraged Martha to purchase the old house in 1990, shortly after her divorce from Andy Stewart. It was a place to start a new garden, make new friends and create something that was entirely hers.

Martha completed an extensive renovation of the shingle-style summer home, which had been badly neglected. Replacing the cracking plaster ceilings with beadboard and removing the outdated heating system in favour of a more eco-friendly modulating gas boiler were among the necessary changes. Martha also completely renovated the kitchen, installing new marble counters, mahogany cabinetry and a beautiful floor of handmade cement tiles from Mexico that had been dyed a deep teal. She enclosed a screened-in porch to create an expansive breakfast area with wall-to-wall windows. Outdoors, Martha planted  sumptuous gardens of climbing roses around her front porch and big patches of purple hydrangeas. There are over 1,800 tulip bulbs planted on this relatively small lot (just one acre) as well as hostas, Japanese maples and other shade-loving plants. The interior features large, open rooms with hardwood floors and big, bright windows. The six bedrooms played host to numerous guests during the summer months, when Martha entertained there frequently.
As with Turkey Hill, Martha used Lily Pond Lane as a design laboratory, a place where she could derive style inspiration and then turn that into product. Many of Martha's products at Kmart (the Martha Stewart Everyday line) were influenced by the style of Lily Pond Lane, with its summery-beachy cottage feel. There were paint colour palettes in each of Martha's paint lines that were inspired by the colours found at Lily Pond Lane, particularly soothing greens and blues, soft pinks and shades of yellow. A later collection in the early 2000s introduced deeper colours: mauves, olives, ambers and browns. 
When Martha leased Westport Digital Studios in the mid-1990s, Studio A was modelled after her East Hampton Kitchen. 

In the summer of 2001, Martha partnered with Bernhardt Furniture to create two lines of furniture, both based on two of her homes: Skylands and Lily Pond Lane. The Lily Pond Lane collection borrowed heavily from the design aesthetic of the furniture Martha used to decorate the home. In the opening of the Lily Pond furniture catalog, the collection is described this way: "The Lily Pond Collection embodies the beauty of a sun-filled cottage by the beach with airy interiors and a cool, seaside palette that welcome casual, carefree living."
The Tides Turn faux-bamboo bed was part of the Lily Pond Lane collection, based on some antique bamboo bedroom furniture Martha used at the house. 


Each one of Martha's homes has a distinct and distinguished personality, usually composed of elements drawn from the area where the home is situated but sometimes inspired by a certain way of life. (At Bedford, for instance, Martha employs visual cues reminiscent of Shaker villages). At Lily Pond the decoration scheme was very much about the garden, about the sea and about summer. 
The colour green (and all its various hues and shades) was very influential in the design philosophy that guided the interior decoration of the home. Reminiscent of sea foam and the underside of hosta leaves, the teal/turquoise shades used on the trim of the exterior of the house as well as several areas of the home's interior evoke a calm and cool atmosphere. Martha once painted the ceilings of several rooms in the house a vibrant combination of these saturated hues. 
The handmade Mexican tiles in the kitchen and breakfast room were dyed a deep teal colour, almost matching Martha's vast collection of teal-toned McCoy pottery, which resided at this house for decades. 
It will be interesting to see where Martha will integrate her collection of McCoy into other spaces.
Even exterior spaces, such as the porch, were treated with refreshing hits of teal.
Martha once kept all of her books about gardening and art at Lily Pond Lane. 
Taxidermy also figured very heavily in the decorating scheme, particularly fish and aquatic birds. Martha once said these Victorian specimens, which she has collected for decades, make a loud and peculiar statement. This antique mounted tarpon is a specimen from the late nineteenth century. Taxidermy suits the home's Victorian pedigree.

Many of us, too, will remember how enchanted we were by the prolific climbing roses that grew along the openings of the main front porch. Martha transplanted them to her home in Bedford several years ago. In their hay-day, however, the roses were among the most widely-admired features of the home's exterior.

To replace the roses, Martha planted clematis vines, barely visible here but beginning to make themselves known. She also painted the trim of the house a light shade of taupe, foregoing the familiar teal.

As years passed and Martha's lifestyle changed, she found herself spending less and less time at Lily Pond Lane - only a weekend or two each year. As she herself would say, "When you're through changing, you're through." I'm sure Martha is extremely grateful for the 30 years she played caretaker to this beautiful, historic home. 

If you're interested in reading more about Lily Pond Lane, click here. I also suggest buying the book "How to Decorate" by Martha Stewart Living, which was published in 1996. There are numerous photographs of Lily Pond Lane in its pages with very specific details about its decoration. 


Anonymous said...

Wow, she sold at a time when the market is HOT. Perhaps she will purchase a house in another location for the grandchildren to enjoy. Also thank you soo much for the image of the faux bamboo bed. I have seen it on an instagram of a santa rosa beach fl designer and now for me-- the mystery of the source has been solved -- however the availability is to be explored. AR you are the BEST.

Anonymous said...

Andrew, the image of the Tide turns faux bamboo bed is what I have been searching for as I have seem this bed in an Instagram account-- she be an interior designer. I think she has two of these beds one in the house in the Florida keys and the other in her residence in the Florida panhandle anyway-- a British home magazine featured a faux bamboo quite similar to this by Bunny Williams collection and my jaw dropped at the $8000-plus listed price ( just viewed it on line.) Martha sold beds and these have probably increased in value !!!

Anne Van Acker / Saratoga Springs, NY said...

I loved seeing any article that featured this home. Everything about it was just gorgeous - decor, gardens, etc. Seeing these pictures reminds me of the years I loved the magazine the most. I still do, but the feel was very different back then for me- probably because that’s when I was working on my own home and acquiring all the skills needed to make a home comfortable, inviting and efficient. Happy to keep learning and changing, though! Thank you for your blog - I so enjoy reading it!

Sarah said...

I was so surprised to read that she had sold this home. I just finished reading this article linked below and it was news to me. Also surprised to read that Alexis' penthouse is on the market.

Anonymous said...

Fantastic article as always. Martha barely has time to spend in Maine - so I imagine she sold it because she just didn't spend much time there. I remember the first issue I bought of MSL was spring 1991 (I think) and it featured the little guest house on Lily Pond Lane that was renovated for Alexis. I think Alexis lived there at the time while she owned a motel in the Hamptons. It was a delightful remodel full of Jadeite and Fire King and was unlike anything I had ever seen in a magazine! Still an excellent issue.